Hank McCune is a forgotten name in TV comedy. His TV series, The Hank McCune Show, however, has found its way into the history books. This filmed series was the very first to use a laugh track. The series aired locally in 1949 and may or may not have already incorporated the use of a laugh track. But the series network debut on September 9, 1950 certainly did, as Variety’s review noted the “… innovation in a soundtrack that contains audience laughter.” The review further stated: “Although the show is lensed on film without a studio audience, there are chuckles and yocks dubbed in. Whether this induces a jovial mood in home viewers is still to be determined, but the practice may have unlimited possibilities if it’s spread to include canned peals of hilarity, thunderous ovations and gasps of sympathy.”
The laugh track/laugh machine is the acknowledged achievement of engineer Charley Douglass. Douglass was awarded an Emmy in 1992 for engineering development; he died in 2003.
Carroll Pratt, who worked with Douglass from the late 1950s to the ’70s, was interviewed by the Archive of American Television on June 12, 2003. Watch an excerpt from his interview regarding his work with Charley Douglass, now posted on the Archive’s page for The Hank McCune Show— that also features an excerpt from the series, with its prevalent laugh track.